An exclusive interview with Rayo Majadahonda coach Ignacio Arenas Llorente

If you’re an Atlético Madrid fan, you know the Estadio Cerro del Espino. It’s where the club won the league title this season with the women’s team, where the B team plays and nurtures talent. It’s also where Rayo plays their home games.

No, not Rayo Vallecano – Rayo Majadahonda.

In fact, the stadium was inaugurated on the 13th of September, 1995 in a friendly match between Rayo Majadahonda and Atlético Madrid. Atlético won 0-1. In return for the stadium, Rayo Majadahonda are an informal feeder club for Atlético.

This summer, Rayo Majadahonda made club history, reaching the Segunda B’s promotion playoffs for the first time ever. In this interview, I spoke to a coach within the club, who witnessed it first hand.

Ignacio Arenas Llorente

When did you make the decision to pursue football coaching and what motivated you to do so?

Football is my passion. From an early age I played in different teams, but unfortunately I injured myself several times which stopped me from playing at a high level. But as it is my passion. It was impossible for me to leave it. Before I started my coach’s degree, I was already working with some amateur teams. That was key – it led me to the next step of trying to become a great coach.

What were the first thoughts in your mind when Leganés approached you? How would you describe your time there?

Being able to be at Leganés Youth A (Juvenil A) was a unique and major opportunity. I was lucky to be able to be with Manolo Navascués, a well-known coach from Madrid. We see eye to eye regarding how a great team should play. I learned a lot from him, from how he managed the team, to how the tactical part worked and the importance of the technique. It was a period of learning that I tried to make the most of.

You went from coaching the Juvenil A side of Leganés to the Infantil side of Nuevo Boadilla in 2013 – how easy/difficult was it to adapt to a different age group?

From Leganés I went to the Rayo Majadahonda as an assistant, and at the same time, I started training the Infantil in Nuevo Boadilla. I was offered to train the team, and they told me that they were coming from a very bad season (four points – one win and one draw) and that I was not going to have any demands on the part of the club. I took it as a challenge – I wanted that group of players to improve day by day, and to prove that they were better than they said they were. I think, at the end of the season, the players and the club were more than pleased, due to the 31 points we got that allowed us to finish in the middle of the table.

The difference between a Juvenil and a Infantil, is that the first one is more difficult to convince about how you want them to play, they are more afraid of making mistakes and asking questions. The children are more daring, if you make them trust you as a coach, and moreover to trust themselves (help them grow their self-esteem) they will not hesitate and will cope with anything. Ask that the ball should be passed from player to player without being thrown up, at the risk of doing it in your own field – that a child will dare more when younger.

How would you detail your experience there, and what motivated you to move to Rayo Majadahonda?

Rayo Majadahonda is a great club in Madrid. It has a very good structure and facilities. I also live very close, and the opportunity they offered me was very attractive, sometimes you cannot say no!

Juvenil Nacional is the second division of juveniles at the state level, the highest division where Juvenil B teams can participate, where you have to face teams like Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, Getafe – the so called elite teams. The three years I’ve been working with that team have been a great learning experience.

Pitch side at Rayo Majadahonda

What different roles have you had at Rayo?

The first year I worked as a second coach or assistant coach of Juvenil B. The following season I was fortunate to be able to repeat that position, with another coach, Pedro Calvo. That year may be one of the most important years I had there. That very same year I also began to train a Infantíl team.

In the third season I continued as a coach of the Infantil team and as a second coach with the Juvenil B, but in January, I was offered to travel with the first team (in the Segunda B) to the away games and I took it. I knew that I would learn a lot and have experiences that I would only be able to have when at a professional team.

The following year I decided to go to another club, start and be there for the last months of the competition with the first team of Rayo Majadahonda, which allowed me to live the experience of playing in the promotion playoffs to the Segunda. It was a remarkable achievement for me and the club.

That year I was offered to be assistant in training and match attendant in the away matches of the first team.

This year I’m learning a lot. If I happen to be asked whether it is better to train a Cadete or Infantil in a normal club in Madrid or be where I am today, I have no doubt that I made the right choices!

After a year at Villanueva del Pardillo, you returned to Rayo for this season, and this will be your fifth season there – is there something about the club that led you to return?

I was offered by the sports director and the coach to be the training assistant of the first team. I took being in an important team, in an important division, besides being able to be part of the coaching staff, as a very good opportunity to continue growing as a great coach.

This season is a big challenge, last year we made history in getting into the playoffs of promotion to the 2nd division, and this year the goal is to stay in the middle of the table, but the dream is to repeat that milestone, and you can only make a dream come true with work hard with great effort and illusion.

This is your first stint with a senior team – were you excited/nervous when Rayo asked you to be part of the first team setup? How are you finding it so far and what are your aims for this season?

At the end of the last season, I was asked to keep traveling to away games. I was going to make the pre-season friendly trips, but a few days before starting pre-season they offered me my current position, as an assistant in training and to continue traveling. It was a very pleasant surprise that the sports director and the coach trust me enough to make me one of their staff.

My main goal is to learn as much as I can from this great experience, to continue to acquire knowledge that will serve me now and in the future. I would also love to help the club to achieve their goals this season and being able to continue making history as a team. Take things day by day as they are, appreciate my time here, and to learn the difference between the good and the bad are the keys.

Given that you have worked in many age groups of Spanish football, how easy/hard is it for an aspiring coach to rise up the ranks?

Being as passionate about football as I am, you just have to keep in mind that facing any challenge with determination makes everything possible. By always giving your best, you can accomplish anything and nothing is impossible. If the truth be told, it is very difficult to go far in this industry, and you must not deceive yourself, but you must have great work ethics and self esteem.

I try to learn every day and to try to perform better every day, to become day by day a better coach. When I am training a team of children, I will get them to improve their play every day, to help them to gain confidence, to be hungry to do more and to do better, settling for nothing but the best they can give.

Regarding older players I try to make them understand that they have to take some steps before they can go further in order to achieve their goals, that the eagerness has to come out from them (that they have to find their eagerness within themselves), that the coach is just an instrument to help them get further in their careers and that they should make the most of every training or match to grow as footballers and as people.

And as a coach you must have be humble, wherever you are, you must always keep learning. It is important to let others help you. You must have an important goal, but you must know that it is far, and that in order to achieve it you must get smaller ones. As in a board game, you can’t reach the goal without going through the previous boxes, step by step. If you take a step back use it to take a step forward, never settle. It’s what I try to do, I think everyone must find their motivation and fight for what they want.

If you had to pick one decision you made that you wish you had done differently, what would it be?

That question is difficult. I am of the opinion that I wouldn’t change anything in my past, because it is the one that has made me to be as I am. But it is also true that I think of things from the past and imagine how it could have been. I had the bad luck of having to stop playing at a very young – I do not know would have gone on to play for an important team, but the failure to be rejected leaves me in doubt. I could have done my sports studies before, but I would not change it, as I told you, my past makes me who I am, even if it is not perfect and has millions of errors, I will continue to try to learn, be a better person and improve day by day.

Do you have any football coaches that you look up to?

Of course, coaches who are a reference for me like Bielsa, Pep Guardiola, Brian Clough, and then two coaches with whom I have had the luck to work with, Antonio Iriondo, head coach of the Rayo Majadahonda, and Pedro Calvo, the second coach – I shared a year with him in Juvenil B, he as head coach and I as a second coach. In that year I learned more than ever, I enjoyed it from beginning to end. I know I’m very lucky to be able to learn from them.

All I have mentioned are coaches who understand football in a way with which I 100% agree with. Treat the ball well, combine, be offensive, innovating and looking for a thousand ways to facilitate that work to players, creating superiority based on possession of the ball. If you have the ball the opponent does not, you are more likely to score and win. But that possession must have a meaning, a logic that facilitates the goal.

 

What advice would you give to anyone trying the enter the football as a player or as a coach?

Difficult to give advice. As I said, I try to enjoy every day, learn from what surrounds me and never lose the illusion. Work, work and more work. That and desire are the keys. Nobody gives you anything in this life, everything you have to fight for it. If it were easy everyone would get it and it would be less attractive. The reward is worth it. Everyone must know what motivates them and fight for what they really want.

What are your plans for the future?

If you ask me for a near future, I can only answer that I want to achieve the team’s goals and learn. If I look further, I want to get where I can. I would love to train an important team, I know that by working hard, the opportunity will be presented to me, and I want to be the best prepared for when it happens.

Anything I haven’t covered and you would like me to mention?

Thank you from me and to all the players and coaches who have helped me and help me continue to grow everyday!

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